Saturday, 17 March 2012

Independent: Why instability will prevail after Saturday’s PN leadership vote
21 February 2012 by Leo Brincat

Those who know very well that the PN’s problems are ingrained within its own parliamentary group rather than within its own party structures are fully aware that next Saturday’s leadership vote at the PN’s Dar Ċentrali will not change anything

Particularly since the governability issues and problems highlighted by dissenting Nationalist MPs have been allowed to fester, remaining ignored, shelved and totally unaddressed.

When an MP asks the PM to step down because he has no confidence in him, due to the oligarchic clan he is surrounded with and such an appeal is merely shrugged off, even if this will or can cost the PM this particular MP’s support, then one will instantly realise that there is no way out once the PM has chosen the path and road of inaction – to preserve his coterie’s vested interests and hold on to a number of erratic and erroneous strategic decisions taken in recent years.

No matter how strong the support for Gonzi might prove to be at a purely delegate level this weekend, at the end of the day he will be back where he started – at a dead end.

These last few days we had three types of appeals being made.

We had Joseph Muscat appealing to those who had not yet picked up their vote for the local elections to do so, to shrug off any existing apathy, and to show that they support the positive and transparent style of governance that he is proposing – particularly when it comes to a completely revamped and open government-styled type of tendering process at a local level, as well as the streaming of local council meetings together with an obligatory far wider consultation process on major decisions in the pipeline in various towns and villages.

While Joseph adopted a common-sense approach, without shirking from the responsibility of even being critical of all those local councils that failed to deliver, it seems that Lawrence Gonzi himself went out of his way too to get out the vote.

To be fair I see nothing wrong in that.

But rather than advocating new methods and a new style of local governance, Gonzi as has become typical by now of his ‘insular village politician’ approach, seemed far more interested in using scaremongering tactics against the PL rather than in resorting to anything that can be described by any yardstick as being either forward looking or inspirational.

Meanwhile, there seems to be another third level at which some people are trying to mobilise and get out the vote.

And this happens to be at a PN general council level, where the PN is reported to be doing its utmost to draw on the ‘services’ of people close to Gonzi’s own inner circle to try and exert pressure on PN councillors to vote for Gonzi next Saturday, even though he faces a leadership election where he is uncontested.

From what we have learnt some councillors of the PN are even being asked over for one-to-one meetings to be given reasons why their vote on Saturday does matter.

The PN is rooting for a massive turnout at Dar Ċentrali in the hope to be able to give Gonzi a strong level of support so that any dissenting or reformist MPs will fall in line with the rest of those who prefer to keep mum not to lose any of their popular support.

As Joseph Muscat pointed out in a tongue-in-cheek manner last Sunday the competition for the best Carnival floats paraded during these last few days will no doubt prove to be far tougher and more contested than the Mubarak-like contest that will be taking place on Saturday.

It is interesting to note that last Sunday – at least judging by media reports that I have read – Gonzi seems to have avoided completely such highly topical subjects as the alarming situation in the health sector, the Moody’s downgrade and negative outlook on the Maltese economy, and their significantly downwardly reduced growth projections for the Maltese islands.

The reason why Gonzi shirked away from all these topics is that he simply relishes the prospects of avoiding facing reality, warts and all.

Another reason why Gonzi and Muscat adopted a totally different approach when trying to get out the 10 March vote was that while Gonzi has every reason to preserve the status quo, as most conservatives are inclined to do, he was no match for the innovative set of completely new ideas that Muscat proposed for local councils; and which he will no doubt adopt in the near future too when it comes to governance at a state and nationwide level.

But if proof was ever needed of the totally unrepentant manner in which the PN operates regardless of any changes of names and faces within its own structures, one only has to recall how the party celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1962 general elections.

While Joseph Muscat said that the same spirit of resolve shown then is now needed within the PL to fight for and secure new civil rights – ranging from such issues as IVF to civil union between same sex people –, as well as for constitutional changes and reforming censorship, the Nationalist Party did not even have the decency to mention once in its own media that the 1962 poll, was one of two elections when it was a mortal sin to vote for the Labour Party. This was the ultimate in extremism, fundamentalism and political intolerance in the Maltese islands.

The fact that these people conveniently chose to ignore such a dark spot in our history merely goes to prove that they can never really be on the right side of history on the local front in the years to come, particularly so long as Gonzi remains Prime Minister and he is not ditched in favour of a far more liberal and open-minded leader far more in tune with present day realities and aspirations.

Leo Brincat is the Shadow Minister for the Environment, Sustainable Development & Climate Change

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